Sunday, January 25, 2009
Helping Lost Dogs Get Home
Lost Dog That Can’t Come Home?
In late November 2007, seven year old Tootsie Roll was lost by his owner the Stubits in Sullivan County, NY when she broke off his lead outside where she had been left unattended all day. Fifteen year old Jenna, who received the dog as a Christmas present 6 years ago, hung flyers and canvassed the area. The Stubits also submitted adds to the newspapers, but did not contact every shelter in a large radius from their home.
Tootsie Roll was not licensed. She has no ID tags. She had no micro chip. There was nothing on Tootsie Roll that would have indicated to anyone who she was or where she lived.
The dog was found unharmed, and brought to the Middletown Humane Society in Orange County NY. The Middletown HS did everything they are supposed to do. They held the dog for 5 days which is the law in New York. The shelter, having no means by which to identify the dog, then did what was best for the dog. They put the dog up for adoption, and almost immediately found the dog a great home. The dog was adopted by a loving family, who like the shelter, did everything correctly, and wanted to do the best they could for the homeless dog.
The adoption is legal. Yet the Stubits have hired a lawyer and are trying to get the dog back. Everyone in the situation sounds sympathetic and sad, but the fact is that the Stubits’ did not license the dog, which is required by law.
At the Pike County Humane Society, we hold all new arrivals for several reasons. One of them is to try to identify the dog and the dog’s home. This holding time gives the owners time to find us. Also during this time we can best assess the dog’s health, neuter status, and personality so that we can do the most we can for each dog, and find each dog the most appropriate home
But that still doesn’t change the fact that you need to license your dog. It is required by law. And it is your best protection to get your dog back should he ever become separated from you.
Pennsylvania is unique in that it offers lifetime licensing. To license your dog in NY, NJ, CT and PA, you need to present a copy of your dog’s signed rabies certificate from your veterinarian. The cost is minimal and this process takes a very short amount of time.
If your dog is lost, you want whoever finds him to be able to find his home. If your dog wears a collar or harness, he should be wearing his tags. These should include his license, his rabies tag and an ID tag, all of which can be used by the shelter to find the dog’s owner.
Additional precautions you can take are microchipping and tattooing.
Some veterinarians offer tattooing. The standard tattoo is on the inner left rear leg, and should be a phone number. If it’s some little “code” that means something to you, that you think will help you prove the dog belongs to you, think again. Anyone who finds the dog and really wants to keep it, can look at that secret word or number and make up why they had that tattoo done. But much more importantly, a shelter, an animal control officer or a good Samaritan has no way of finding you by looking at the secret date or word tattooed on the pooch’s leg. It’s a wasted procedure if you don’t put a phone number there.
The more popular and cost effective alternative is Microchipping. Chipping is standard in many places. A tiny harmless microchip is inserted under the skin between the dog’s shoulders. Any shelter has a chip reader that scans the area and searches for the chip. The chip would provide them with a unique serial number issued to your dog. By calling the national registry with that serial number, the shelter would be able to reunite you with your dog. You should contact your veterinarian for more information on chipping.
But the best medicine is prevention. Dogs should not be let out without a safely fenced in yard, and should be monitored even if you think the fence is secure. They should not be taken for walks without being on a secure leash. They should not be left unattended on a lead, like Tootsie Roll was. It is all too common that a dog that “never takes off” suddenly sees a fox, or cat, or hears a car backfire, or a kid scream, and for the first time ever the dog runs. Anything could happen. The dog could become lost, stolen, hit by a car, trapped, or more.
If a dog bolts, running hard and fast, he can plow through an electric fence sometimes without even getting a shock. Then, when and if a calmed, more trepidations dog returns home, he can’t get back onto his property for fear of electrocution. An electric fence keeps the dog out as well as in. Some people feel electric fences are very effective. But just like with an outside lead, dogs escape. Do not think you don’t have to pay attention and monitor your dog just because you think he’s fenced in.
Chains, leads, collars and harnesses should be checked often for their integrity.